Get help today 888-287-0471 or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

Barbiturate Detox and Withdrawal

Barbiturates are sedatives that are usually prescribed to treat epilepsy, anxiety, and sleeping problems. As barbiturates can be addictive, people who develop a problem may need to attend a barbiturate detox center. There are lots of different types of barbiturates, and although the effects are similar between them, each one tends to last for a different amount of time.

Barbiturate use in the medical profession has become less common over the years, but research suggests that street use is on the increase.

Did You Know?

Taking barbiturates with food or milk can help to reduce stomach irritation.


Patients abusing barbituratesLike most drugs, barbiturates can cause a range of side effects. Patients taking barbiturates may experience the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Nosebleeds

If you experience any side effects, tell your physician. He or she may need to adjust your dose or give you an alternative prescription.

Did You Know?

Barbiturates have lots of nicknames, including “reds,” “downers,” “purple hearts,” “nembies” and “golf balls.”

Withdrawal Symptoms

Some people become addicted to barbiturates by using them recreationally, but it is possible to develop dependence through normal use because of the way the drugs act on the brain. Anyone who takes barbiturates regularly for more than a month may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop, and withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Always seek advice from your doctor before trying to withdraw from barbiturate use. If you are worried about barbiturate dependency, call to discuss your situation with an expert. Our staff will be able to discuss your options and recommend a local barbiturate detox center.

Taking high doses of barbiturates can cause an overdose. If you suspect that someone has overdosed on barbiturates, call for an ambulance immediately. Overdose symptoms include:

  • Clumsiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma


  • Large doses of barbiturates can cause people to stop breathing.
  • The National Institutes of Health states that one in 10 people who overdose on barbiturates or a mixture of drugs will die.

Barbiturate Withdrawal Options

“There is a range of options open to anyone needing to withdraw from barbiturates.”There is a range of options open to anyone needing to withdraw from barbiturates. Your physician or addiction treatment professional will be able to come up with a withdrawal plan to taper your dose over a period of time. This plan will help your body gradually adjust to lower barbiturate levels and minimize withdrawal symptoms. Treatment must be tailored to your needs and will vary depending on the dose of barbiturates you have been taking. You may be referred to a barbiturate withdrawal treatment facility for further intervention.

Barbiturate withdrawal treatment facilities are run by staff who are trained to help people overcome their barbiturate dependencies. Doctors oversee the running of barbiturate detox centers and create individualized withdrawal programs for patients. Access to any drugs other than those prescribed for barbiturate detox programs is prevented, which can make inpatient programs work more effectively than outpatient ones. Patients will be offered counseling and group therapy sessions to get to the root of their problems and help them learn to live without barbiturates once they have been detoxified.

Center staff will endeavor to personalize your addiction treatment program by meeting with you to discuss your individual circumstances. It is important that you are completely honest when answering questions, as a program that meets your needs is more likely to result in successful withdrawal.

Barbiturate dependency can happen to anyone, but people are often afraid to seek help because they worry about what people will think. Our experts will listen to your worries and give advice on the best treatment options for you. Call to discuss your situation, and one of our experts will put you in touch with a barbiturate detox center in your area. Take back control of your life by getting the help you need.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.